Finally, TI Is Producing Simple, Cheap WiFi Modules

Ever responsive to the hobbyist market, Texas Instruments is releasing a very inexpensive, very simple WiFi module specifically designed for that Internet of Things.

The TI SimpleLink TI CC3000 WiFi module is a single-chip solution to putting 802.11b/g WiFi in just about every project you can dream up. Just about everything needed to put the Internet in a microcontroller is included in this chip – there’s a TCP/IP stack included on the chip, along with all the security stuff needed to actually connect to a network.

The inexpensive micocontroller WiFi solutions we’ve seen – including the very cool Electric Imp – had difficult, or at least odd, means of putting WiFi credentials such as the SSID and password onto the device. TI is simplifying this with SmartConfig, an app running on a phone, tablet, or PC that automagically takes care of setting up a link in a wireless network.

Best of all, the CC3000 only costs $10 in quantities of 1000. Compare that to other Internet of Things WiFi solutions, and it looks like we might be seeing and easy and cheap way to connect a project to the internet this year.

78 thoughts on “Finally, TI Is Producing Simple, Cheap WiFi Modules

  1. My Avnet FAE yesterday told me that these would have a hard time connecting to many networks as they do not support WPA2 encryption. Anyone know what types of WLANs they will connect to? The data sheet is silent on the issue, and the other TI app. notes are a vague mentioning only WPS.

      1. For the Raspberry Pi, a $10 solution is already available. (Just plug a WiFi dongle into the USB port. Current Linux distros like Raspbian alread support it.)

        But since it’s from TI, I hope to see a LaunchPad booster-pack for it.

        1. In the event that Allied digikey, mouser et. al. end up stocking the modules hobbyists should happily pay twice the supply houses pay for them to be able get the modules alone in low number volumes. Not enough persons willing to pay double the cost of the module for any breakout board for the module, for a break out board can only insure that no break out boards will be made available.

          1. These parts are available per 1k from TI. Whoever builds a breakout won’t wait for those distributors to stock them and buy from them. That would lower profit and make no sense volume-wise. The distributors don’t bulk order in that magnitude for new devices, your breakout devices won’t come from them but directly from the source.

          1. While I agree that b/g is probably all that is necessary for a microcontroller, there are some people who have an n+ router and all n+ devices and they turn off b/g in the router. They would have to reconfigure their router to add these devices.

            Then again, most of us probably have a WRT54G or equivalent hiding in a closet somewhere that could be put on the network without disturbing the main router’s settings.

          2. if you turn off b/g which is a part of 802.11n, then you have just killed your range on your n network. Try walking away from your n router with your laptop with and without b/g turned on.

  2. Using smartconfig you either send your WPA key in the clear across the WLAN or you have to enter an AES key which was stored in the device at factory time.

    For the next version it would be nice if ipv6 was supported as well, TI already has 6lowpan implemented so IPv6 should not be too hard and you don’t want to replace you expensive lightbulbs because you are moving your WLAn to ipv6 ..

    1. I’m no package expert but the datasheet is available on the TI page, and the only package on it is the type that has all pins underneath, the maker unfriendly kind of package. Not BGA but not hand solderable either.

  3. Interesting but that CC3000 module really isn’t hobbyist friendly, no matter what the retail price becomes, if it becomes a retail item at low volume numbers. This device meant for a production line is going to require carrier of some sort to make using is practical for most hobbyists. Yea it could be used dead bug style, but that wouldn’t be very rugged. As it is,it’s interest, but not yet very exciting. I’d like to see how they build a decent performing transceiver inside those small modules.

  4. $10 isn’t all that great of a price … Bunnie was getting the USB RTL WiFi adapters in the Chumby for around $5/ (which yes, requires a micro with USB Host), and the cost of several other SPI-communicating solutions was closer to $8/ (and still required huge quantities)

    1. The module in the Chumby requires a full Wi-Fi and TCP/IP stack, which Linux on the Chumby provides. This is more like the modules from Roving Networks or equivalent to the Wiznet chips but for Wi-Fi.

      1. seems like you should look at what you can do with the TPlink. For those 5 more dollars you have 4Mo rom 32Mo ram, ethernet, USB2, embedded OS and of course WIFI.
        Regarding the physical dimension, I would be surprised that your finished project does less than 20x 20. Remember you need some input, output, processing, power …

        1. All this just to make a tiny temperature logger capable of WiFI?
          All this just to make a simple hd44780 display show some text over wifi?
          All this just to make a WiFi enabled RC-Car?
          All this just to make a Smartphone-connected blood pressure meter?

          Yes, one could go the overkill route. But if youre already designing a circuit, why not just integrate a tiny chip on it with some passives around it?

      1. Yeah, but these CC3000 modules aren’t FCC’ed, whereas RN’s are. The existing FCC’ed.CC3000 FCC’ed modules from LS are in the $27 range and I’m not sure that Murata has priced theirs yet. Plus there’s more passives-dust that you have to sprinkle around a bare CC3000 as well as all of the antenna matching that you have to do, whereas the RN is much closer to ready-to-go. Plus RNs are easier to solder by hand over bare CC3000s (plus all of the other glue you have to tack on around it).

        It does still look like it comes in cheaper by almost a third, but it’s hard to say yet if one is clearly better for most applications over the other. Both LS and Murata have had their own CC3000-based modules out for a number of months, so go see for yourself. Eval modules on a breakout are in the $50 range.

    1. I’ll have to agree, don’t see why the news post makes such a big deal about it … by the time it’s on a module it won’t be any cheaper for singles than what Rovin and Microchip already have (also wr703n is interesting for high power/bandwidth).

  5. Nice idea, but with that footprint, about the only chance we’ll have at hobbyist-friendly modules is to wait for various obscure manufacturers in China to produce the reference design in a DIP module format and sell them on eBay. Not that I’m complaining about that if the final price is somewhere around $15 or less.

    1. Very unlikely for $15, maybe not even for $20 by the end of the year for a DIP plug-in. Even for $25 I still think that they’d be a deal mounted. $20 for a SMT module with side-terminations and a decent PCB antenna would be fine by me, like those $5 BT modules that are out there now.

  6. internet of things? for the IOT, the key parameter is current consumption. this wifi thing is 5 uA in shutdown mode, 100 mA in rx mode and 200 mA in tx mode. No way to power that from a battery.

    802.15.4 is still a better choice. Lower consumption, scheduled transceiver activity or data pull model, all of this is a must have for an IOT device.

    1. Certainly not from a coin cell, but from some other battery types it’s clearly possible — there are already hundreds of millions of devices that do. It’s also not universal that everyone thinks that IoT means “battery operated” either. There are plenty of Internet-able things that have access to line power and/or are rechargeable.

      Some systems will even be combos of 802.15.4 and/or BLE/ANT and/or 802.11 and/or 802.3 depending on exactly where they are in the food chain.

  7. It’s worth noting that it doesn’t have an antenna. Proper antenna design and impedance matching requires trial and error, experience, or expensive software/hardware (usually come combination of the previous)

  8. Reality: Nobody will use these at a 10000 minimum unless there is a market for them, and a SoC that only does 802.11b/g is too inferior and expensive for consumer markets where CDMA/GSM/EDGE/802.11N/BT basebands have about the same cost to quantity. These are only different because there is less legal and trademark prerequisites(unless TI NDAs the stack interface like they do with their ARM SoCs…

    1. In the hardware development world, saving development time can be as valuable as reducing BOM cost totals, if not more. And just because TI is only offering the chip in 10,000 quantities (eventually), that doesn’t mean a huge part of their purchasing market won’t come from distributors like Digikey, etc.

      Look at the other offerings that are in the new “CC” lineup — their ANT chip is aimed squarely at low-power device networks. Sometimes WIFI is a prerequisite for an application though (user interface), hence the CC3000.

      tl;dr —-
      “Nobody will use these at a 10000 minimum unless there is a market for them…”
      I’m sure TI has done their market research.

  9. this is what used android mobiles are for… bluetooth module on arduino and you instantly get a wifi shield, sd card shield, accelerometers& gyros, gps, gsm shield and more processing power than you need for a tiny fraction of real shields cost

    1. I thought the same thing.. but if you think about it some more.. the devices these things are going to do into will be inside a NAT or whatever. IPv6 being available isn’t a reason for IPv4 to disappear as IPv4 is perfectly fine for a lot of applications.

  10. The Avnet Wi-go is Arduino form factor, but comes with a much more powerful Cortex M0+ based MCU. Along with wi-Fi you get an accelerometer, magnetometer, 2MB of serial flash, and did I mention it’s battery powered?

  11. LOL, $10@1000units for cc3000 not really good bargain for hobbyist.

    communication through SPI interface that means you needs another microcontroller, I still stick to ElectricImp which is better comes with 6 multipurpose (analog, gpio, serial, i2c, spi…) pins, 1 tiny module do all the basic job within 6 pins and if you needs more pins then only attach to micro-controller. it just $24 for 1 unit :)

    a TP-Link TL-WR703N router ($20 in my country) is good for me too, there are unused gpio pin and serial interface hidden within…

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